Things aren’t going well for you, and you don’t really understand why. Compared to other people, your life isn’t all that bad, so why do you often feel like you are trudging through your days carrying a weight on your back? Do you ever really feel satisfied with anything?
At times it can seem that we go through life struggling through the motions in an effort to make things better, trying to feel more happiness or satisfaction, only to find that nothing we do brings us much pleasure – at least on a consistent basis. Quite often, the problem is that we constantly search outside ourselves for our sources of happiness—our jobs, our relationships, our material possessions, our own accomplishments or our children’s, or any number of “addictions” such as alcohol, food, shopping, gambling, or exercise. Only when we learn that our true source of lasting satisfaction and happiness is within us can we truly experience peace and joy—no matter what is going on around us.
Sounds simple, but how do we access that inner source of contentment? Is there some “secret” formula that we can use to help us understand what will make us happy? The answer is that only when we truly spend time and effort getting to know ourselves can we discover what we need to be happy. We call this knowledge “self-awareness,” and it is an elusive concept for many of us who have spent our lives trying to please other people or mold ourselves into what we think they expect of us.
To become more self-aware, you may first need to examine some of the common barriers to this kind of growth to ensure that you are ready to begin thinking in a different way. Change can be both exciting and frightening, as it may require us to leave old patterns behind. Here are some obstacles that can hinder growth toward greater self-awareness:
Denial – It’s nearly impossible to change if you don’t think you need to. Listen to the quiet voice inside yourself and to what your loved ones are saying. Get the support you need to see the truth.
Seeing yourself as a victim – If you’re always blaming others for your situation, you can’t become the empowered person you are meant to be.
Substance abuse – Your problems won’t go away until you are willing to face them without relying on chemicals to escape or avoid.
Fear – Acknowledge the frightened parts of yourself, praise your courage to examine your fear, and be as gentle with yourself as you would a friend.
Rage – Extreme anger signals a need to pay attention to our triggers, but sometimes we get stuck there. Accepting what we can’t change and working toward creative expression of our feelings can give us freedom.
Busyness – Constantly moving is a distraction and allows no time for the reflection that lays the foundation for self-awareness.
Defensiveness – If we accept the reality that humans make mistakes and can stop being defensive about what we judge as “wrong,” an ever-expanding life awaits.
Debbie Parrott, MSW, P-LCSW